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Religious Freedom Dominates U.S. Bishops' Meeting


JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND

Source:
Nat. Cath. Register
Type:
Media/Opinion
Date:
6/14/2012

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ABSTRACTReligious Freedom Dominates U.S. Bishops' Meeting | Daily News | NCRegister.com Print Edition:  June 17, 2012   Donate Archives Blogs Store Resources Advertise Jobs Radio Subscribe Make This My Homepage Resources Christmas Music Arts & Entertainment Books Commentary Culture of Life Education In Person News Opinion Sunday Guides Travel Vatican Dan Burke Edward Pentin Mark Shea Matthew Warner Jimmy Akin Matt & Pat Archbold Simcha Fisher Tito Edwards Jennifer Fulwiler Steven D. Greydanus Tim Drake Tom Wehner Our Latest Show About the Show About the Register Donate Subscribe Stations Schedule Other EWTN Shows Advertising Overview Editorial Calendar Order Web Ad Order Print Ad Print Article | Email Article | Write To Us Daily News Daily News Religious Freedom Dominates U.S. Bishops' Meeting (10) Archbishop Lori signals commitment to defense of individual conscience rights and the free exercise of Catholic institutions. Share by JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND 06/14/2012 Comments (1) Archbishop William Lori – Michelle Bauman/CNA ATLANTA — As the U.S. bishops continue their battle against the federal government’s contraception mandate, they have been under increasing pressure to focus on a defense of the free exercise of Catholic institutions and set aside the issue of conscience protections for individual employers who oppose the new law on religious or moral grounds. But Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, yesterday embraced the conscience rights for small businessmen and other employers who oppose the inclusion of contraception, abortion drugs and sterilization in private employee health plans. In an opening statement June 13 that marked the start of a spirited interlude of speeches and discussion on domestic religious-liberty concerns, followed by two presentations on threats to international religious freedom abroad, Archbishop Lori noted the drum beat of critics who want the conference to limit the scope of its agenda. “The idea that individual persons have a right to conscientious objection, as against coercive government action like the HHS mandate — though firmly established in both the teaching of the Church and the policy of the conference for generations — has not merely been called into question, but mocked as some kind of novel or marginal theory,” he said. Archbishop Lori’s firm stance was backed up by a strong statement from the papal nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who attended the meeting. “It goes without saying that the Catholic Church in the United States is living in a particularly challenging period of its history,” Archbishop Viganò told the Atlanta meeting, making it clear that Pope Benedict XVI endorsed their initiative. “Of course, I am thinking of the whole question of freedom of religion and of conscience,” the nuncio added, in a departure from more diplomatic language. "The Church must speak with one voice. The fundamental tactic of the enemy is to see the Church divided." The nuncio suggested that the Pope's addresses during the U.S. bishops' recent ad limina visits provided a road map for the future. A host of constitutional scholars and commentators have waited to see how the bishops would likely respond to the mounting pressure to backtrack on individual conscience rights. Alarm bells went off after some bishops seemed to reserve their ammunition for challenging the mandate’s narrow religious exemption for Church-affiliated institutions and ignored the concerns of small businessmen. On Monday, two days before the bishops met in Atlanta, Public Discourse, a website that addresses such issues and is closely affiliated with Robert George, the professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and a leading Catholic public intellectual, posted a defense of conscience rights . “The key to understanding conscience rights correctly is to recognize that there is a world of difference between a law that makes me do something I don’t  want  to do and a law that makes me do something I have an  obligation  not to do. The former is an annoyance, the latter an assault on my moral integrity,” wrote Melissa Moschella, who recently earned her Ph.D. in politics at Princeton. “[As a] pluralistic liberal democracy, we should indeed bend over backwards to craft our laws so that individuals will never be unnecessarily coerced into violating their consciences.” ‘The Catholic Both/And’ Archbishop Lori, for his part, laid out the principles that have shaped the conference’s statements and efforts to pursue legal and legislative remedies to the contraception mandate approved on Jan. 20. He stressed that they did not only address the federal government’s unacceptably narrow religious exemption, wh.......